Another Surgery….

I have been quiet while having to deal with some health issues related to the hormone therapy.

I found out today that I will be having a total hysterectomy end June/early July.  The sincere hope is that once my ovaries are gone, my hormones will settle down and I can get back to feeling like myself again.

In the meantime, the hormone therapy has more or less crashed my entire system.  Because stopping the hormone therapy is not an option (the shot lasts until May), I have had to be treated with medication for the side effects.  Almost 4 weeks later, I seem to be finally starting to get to a functional point.

I say functional.  The psychiatrist who is treating me calls it ‘presenteeism’–it’s one step up from absenteeism.  Instead of being absent from my life, I am there, just not really participating.

To be perfectly honest, I have never felt worse in my life–including during chemo, radiation, and after surgery.  And I feel helpless to do anything about it, I can only manage it.

Slowly, the mental health issues are improving, but unfortunately the physical ones are not.  I am exhausted.  I am ready for bed at 6 pm after a full day of work.  It takes almost 12 hours for me to feel refreshed.  When I am awake, my energy is fairly fleeting.  It has improved a little in the last week (likely due to the medication), but it is still very restrictive.  I also ache all over.  If you have ever had aches from a fever, that is what I feel like all the time.  That in itself is exhausting.  Usually by 2 pm I have to take some ibuprofen to take the edge off.  I also have frequent headaches and right now the hot flashes are fairly frequent.

At least now, I have a general time frame to aim for when things might get better.  I say might because there is no way to know how my body will respond to surgical menopause versus chemical menopause, but there is a good chance that without my ovaries causing fluctuating hormone levels, things will stabilize and be more controllable.

This also makes very real for me something I have been avoiding–I will never have children.  It was highly unlikely before, but this makes it an absolute ‘no’. In many ways I am grieving for the children I will never have, and I have to acknowledge and give myself time to do that.

To be perfectly honest, I am not really sure if I ever would have had children or if it was something I wanted to do, but I took comfort in having the option. There is a lot more to that, but there are some things I need to keep to myself :).

I do have some dance news.

After I decided to stop dancing, I did go and advertise for a partner in the area where I live.  The response, I am sad to say was two offers for sex and one guy who was genuinely interested in dance, but who also was looking more for a relationship.  It was disappointing, but not really more than I expected, to be honest.

I had a fairly significant breakdown shortly after making my decision.

As part of that, I spent a lot of time discussing dance and what it means to me with my health care professionals.  They encouraged me to reevaluate and to talk to another dancer in the community.  They also pointed out that since my system was so depressed, no matter how much I might want to, I would never be able to see the good side to dance, only the bad.

It took a lot of talk, both with an amateur dancer who has also had breast cancer and previously danced pro/am herself when her partner was unwell, and talking with Boss, in addition to the health care professionals.

In the end, I decided to start writing.  I wrote about what led me to dance, what I enjoy about it, what I want from it, where I am, where I want to be, what I think of pro/am, how I want to learn–in short, 10 pages about dance, going through everything.

It was the most comprehensive evaluation of dance I have ever done, and it occurred to me that throughout my sickness I have had to reevaluate almost every area of my life–but I have never reevaluated dance.

It was long overdue, and it revealed a lot about what I really want and it is quite different from what I was doing and the direction I was going.

I don’t want to say more on that for now, but the evaluation is on-going.

One of the biggest obstacles I am encountering right now is actually the lack of energy, but I hope it will get better.

We shall see.  But now I seem to have something of a timeline for when this nightmare might end.

And so I fight on…

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Unexpected change of plans

The ovarian suppression has stopped working.

For the gents reading, be warned this will be a women’s health post.

As I have mentioned, I was switched to a type of ovarian suppression via injection for hormone therapy 3 months ago.  The first two months went exactly as expected.  This month, it seems the injection only lasted less than a week.

I had been feeling pretty ‘off’ meaning emotional, depressed, achy, headaches and nausea for about a week, but I honestly put it down to a combination of stress and side effects from the injection attributed to my estrogen levels dropping quite low.

It turns out, this was exactly what I should have realized it was–PMDD symptoms, or extreme PMS.  Last night I suddenly had a period start, which is a huge ‘no no’ with this type of treatment.  Basically, my ovaries have overcome the ovarian suppression and have continued to produce estrogen.

Industrious little B*T*H*S.

Knowing that a period was not a good sign, I called my oncologist this morning to see what, if anything can be done and what will be the next step.  Basically, since the Zoladex is not working, he is going to try switching me to a similar ovarian suppressor named Lupron.  This is apparently a stronger suppressor, and instead of an injection once/month, it is for 3 months at a time.  On top of that, I have been told I must start the additional estrogen blocker next week, instead of the first week of march as I planned.

I get the new injection tomorrow.  I am a little angry about this as I will have to miss an hour of school to get it, and once again there is no way to know what side effects this injection will have, or what side effects the estrogen blocker will have as well.  I have one more week left to my masters residency, so I am optimistic that the result from this injection will be similar to how I felt after the injection of the zoladex.

I am determined to continue with school.  It’s intense but I am really enjoying it and in all honesty, I am very tired of having to deal with cancer-related issues and having to put pieces of my life on hold to try and deal with therapies.

I was also told today that if this new course of hormone therapy does not keep me in menopause (for example if the injection wears off early), I will be ‘referred to gynecology’ which basically means oophorectomy (removal of ovaries), and surgery.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what to hope for right now.  It would be nice to just eliminate all the issues my ovaries are causing, but on the other hand not having ovaries also has it’s own side effects.  I would be in surgical menopause, for which there is no timeline (it could be years before it stops) and cannot be treated (due to inability to take hormones), bone health is affected and the ovaries are proven to big role in heart health later in life.

However, there is no point in worrying about that until and if I have to.  For now, it is necessary to get my estrogen levels under control as best we can and go from there.

I just hope this form of hormone therapy works and my life will stop being affected by cancer prevention.

I can hope, right??

One year Cancer-Free

That was my milestone for yesterday.

It’s been a really crazy year, but it’s done.  It’s uphill from here.  I was told it takes up to 2 years to fully recover from my treatments, so I guess I am officially halfway there.

No, I didn’t get everything done I had hoped to in the last year, but as life kept putting more and more obstacles in my way, I just kept adjusting.  The road to your goals is never a straight line, but full of unexpected twists and turns.

Yesterday turned out to be an unexpectedly busy day.  I received news that once all the paperwork comes through I will be returning to my previous position managing the public relations for the local base and will be working for my old Boss again–at least temporarily until he gets sent to a new position later this year.

I don’t know when the paperwork will come through yet, but ‘any day now’ seems to be the main line I get when I ask what to expect.  I have mixed feelings about returning to a position I have previously done, but I am doing so based on a request specifically for me, and it keeps me in the same location.  It is a job I really enjoyed and I will be overseeing some major transitions in staffing and infrastructure that will certainly keep me busy.

It will be a good place for me to finish healing, and does represent the faith that the senior leadership has in my abilities and that is not something to be taken lightly.

One of the other things I was able to do yesterday was run through and record 3 of the open smooth routines with Boss!  We are sending the videos to the pro who originally choreographed the routines for some general feedback and to see if there are spots she thinks should be adjusted.  It’s great to have gotten the routines to that point where we can run them without stopping even though they are still pretty rough.

My plan for later tonight is to go through the videos and make some notes for myself on styling.  I am glad to actually have reached a point where I find myself thinking about styling more than the steps.

We are going to run the routines tomorrow during the competitive practice to give us an idea of the alignments and spacing in a bigger hall.  I am looking forward to that as I think it’s going to be very interesting.

The other decision I have made recently is to work with a friend of mine on styling in general for smooth and latin. She is a hip hop teacher as well as a coach at a local dance studio that specializes in empowering women through dance (in styles like jazz, modern, burlesque, chair, etc.).  I think the work will be good to help with my confidence.  One of the themes I see a lot in my dancing lately, and especially in my styling is ‘small’. So I need to work on developing (or redeveloping) my confidence to ‘go big or go home’, something my dancing needs a lot of.

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I seem to be turning the corner on the hormones.  I haven’t had a headache for 2 days or been nauseous.  My head cleared yesterday, I feel more calm, more energetic and I am sleeping better.  4 more days till I see the specialist.

My first year cancer-free has been a challenge, but I expected it to be (although perhaps not quite such a big one!).

I want to take a moment though to acknowledge that there is no way I would have been able to get through the past year so strongly without the incredible support I have from friends and family.  There are too many to name and I especially wouldn’t want to leave any out, but I hope they all know who they are and how much there support has made a difference for me.

I am looking forward to what I hope will be an easier 2nd year cancer-free.

Recognizing Anger

I am angry. And I have been for a while.

I very rarely get angry and when I do, I seldom give into it, but sometimes it is healthy to let out the anger and frustration to give it a chance to ‘clear the air’ so you can move past it instead of ignoring it.

So I apologize in advance for the angry post that is about to follow.

My body and I are still not getting along.  Even when good things happen (like being able to stop taking medication I no longer need), my body rebels.  I feel like my body and I have been at odds since before my diagnosis, and in some ways my diagnosis was my body’s way of fighting back against the changes I had been making.

Changes to get healthier.

The year before my diagnosis was one of the most positive years in my life.  I was doing very well at work, I was progressing steadily in dance (even transitioning from bronze to silver), I was steadily losing weight and that was having a positive impact on my body.  I rarely needed medications, and I can’t even remember the last time I saw my doctor other than for a mandatory check-up since sorting out my hormone issues the year before.

I was full of positive momentum and charging forward with it.  It wasn’t free of bumps in the road, but the bumps were easy to work through and I just kept overcoming it.  I could even see myself reaching my weight loss goal and was only 25 lbs from it (considering I had already lost 75, 25 was really not much).

Then I found the lump in my breast and everything changed.

Suddenly, I had no control over my body anymore.  Everything from diet to medications to hormones was taken out of my control and put into the control of my cancer diagnosis.  I kept trying to maintain control by eating a specific diet, trying to stay active and doing as much as I could.

But it wasn’t enough.  My activity level had to be reduced, medications (mainly steroids) that caused weight gain had to be taken, and chemo caused so many food aversions I couldn’t eat the things I had come to rely on in my diet and had to find substitutes.  My hormones were thrown into complete flux, first because I had to stop taking my supplements, then chemo caused premature menopause (which also tends to trigger weight gain).

My body was abused, worn out, and eventually gained 35lbs I had lost (which I have been told is the average for chemo).  After recovering from my surgeries and returning to work, I started working on me again–trying to take back control of my body–and get it back in ‘fighting form’.

But it hasn’t worked.

Over the past few weeks I have been getting angrier and angrier because I have put in a lot of time, effort, and sacrifices, but the result has been the opposite of what I expected.  It just seems like every time I get just a little more control of myself, something happens to take it away from me.  I get sick. I have to adjust medication. I have side effects from medications. I fall. I get injured.

The list seems to go on and on.

And I am very sick of it.

The withdrawal symptoms I started experiencing last week are continuing.  I missed 3 days of work last week and will miss most of this week to try and give my body the chance to flush out the medication and get used to functioning without it again.  One doctor said expect 3-4 weeks, another 7-10 days. At this point, I don’t care how long it takes, I want this over with.  It is almost like the last hurdle I need to get over to really take my life back and it is like I reach the top of it only to discover there is still another summit to go.

I feel like I have been fighting to regain my life for more than 2 years now. And I am tired. I am angry. I am trying not to give up the fight.

I am trying to remember how good it felt to see positive and expected results from hard work. I am trying to remember what it felt like to be strong and confident.  I am trying to remember what it feels like to be me–driven, motivated and full of perseverance.

Perseverance used to be my word. I might not be first or even second, but I was going to finish and I was going to do it the best I could knowing that the work I was doing meant I would be even better next time.  I knew that because I knew if I kept doing my best every time, then my best would just keep getting better.

I don’t feel I can do my best anymore. I feel like that has been taken away from me.  I know what that was and despite so much effort I feel like I am no closer to reaching the goals I was trying to reach before I got sick.  And I am really angry about that.

I feel like I am doing everything I can to help my body get stronger and healthier and it is refusing to respond.  I feel like despite all the work I have done in the past year, I am still where I was this time last year–recovering from radiation and shingles and preparing for the biggest surgery of my life.

My instinct is to try to keep fighting and force my body to cooperate as much as I can.  But in the past 3 weeks, my trainer, my physiotherapist and my doctor have told me I am probably doing too much.

I am angry that the thought of slowing down and giving myself a break puts me in a panic.  I am barely able to maintain my health and weight doing as much as I am–doing less sounds like the road to disaster.

I am angry because it is like cancer was a cruel joke sent to me as a message to tell me that I can’t reach my goals. That my goals are impossible and I am a fool for trying so hard and having faith for so many years.  I have spent my life taking one step forward and two steps back and doing things people told me I would never be able to do.

I am angry because although my mind refuses to quit, my body refuses to cooperate.  A part of me is almost wondering what obstacle it is going to present me with next as a further roadblock to my goals.

I am angry because I want to stay positive. I want to keep pushing. I want to feel like my goals ARE possible.

And I feel like that is out of my control.

I keep telling myself to be patient. I keep telling myself to remember that I have been through a lot. I keep telling myself that if I keep working, it will all come together. I keep telling myself to have faith and trust and just believe that it will work out.

But how long can I keep telling myself these things before I am living in a fantasy world instead of reality? How long is too patient?

I just don’t know if my expectations are unrealistic for the new reality in which I find myself post cancer.  I feel as though I am constantly making compromises to adjust to the changes that have occurred, but I am also questioning at what point do compromises become giving in?  I am angry because I don’t think I have anything left to compromise on, and the only options left to me is to give in completely.

I am angry with myself because I blame myself. Somewhere I didn’t do enough, didn’t try hard enough, haven’t been strong enough.  I am not able to be the person I want to be anymore and I am grieving for that.  I feel as though reality is telling me it’s time to give up my dreams and find new more reasonable ones. I am angry because I am not even really sure what those dreams were any more.  My past hopes seem so naive in comparison with my current reality.

All of this may also be part of the withdrawal symptoms I am undergoing (anger is one of the symptoms listed), but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, and it doesn’t change that I feel like I have been failing myself.

That is the hardest thing to deal with right now–feeling like I am failing.  Every day I am not able to do everything I want to do and have to adjust or compromise I feel like I am failing.  Like I am not giving myself the best chance.

Before I got sick, I was very used to doing things on my own.  Too independent according to some people.  While I was sick I had to learn the hard way to allow myself to depend on others, and as long as I was sick I was able to justify that.  Now, I am no longer sick and in my head I feel as though I should be able to take care of myself again without having to rely on others.  I feel like I should be able to work through things now without having to inconvenience others.  But I am angry because I feel like an inconvenience to those around me.

I am also angry because I feel like too many of my posts lately have been about my health and less about dance.  I am angry with myself because I feel like there has been a lot of negative coming out of me lately.  And one thing I have never been is a negative person.

So, I am giving myself some time to just be angry. Time to acknowledge that I am angry about a great many things–some in my control, some not. I am giving myself a moment to feel bad and wallow a bit in self-pity and grieve all I have lost.

My hope is to be able to find within myself the courage to regroup once again. To know that eventually I will move beyond these withdrawal symptoms and when I do the future will be waiting for me to grab it and push my way towards it.

I just have to hang on a little bit longer.

Please forgive me for expressing my anger.

Cancer-versary

That’s what we call the anniversary of the day we are diagnosed.

Today is my two-year cancer-versary.

I don’t think anyone forgets the day they hear the words ‘I am sorry but the biopsy came back positive for cancer’.

It’s a day your life changes and no matter how much you try to prepare for it, you are never really ready to hear those words.

The day started out pretty bad as I woke up with a bad case of the flu and had to go to the medical clinic first thing. While I was there, I asked my doctor if my biopsy results were in because it had been 10 days since the ultrasound when the sample was taken. She didn’t have the results yet, but promised to track them down and call me later in the day.

I went home to bed with lots of flu medications and napped for a couple hours. I woke up at about 11 am when my doctor called me with the news.

Beyond the initial statement, the rest of the conversation was a blur. I really wasn’t able to completely process at that time everything she was saying and my mind was racing.

When I got off the phone, I gave myself a moment to take a deep breath and began to wonder what I should do next. I began to wonder who I should tell and how. Up until that point, other than my immediate supervisor and my assistant at work, no one knew I had discovered a lump and that they suspected cancer, except Boss because we had competed the weekend before my ultrasound and I was quite stressed and distracted.

I started making phone calls, and I remember talking to my assistant and she was the first person who I told that I had cancer. Saying it was one of the hardest things to do, but it got easier after that. I called my supervisor, my parents, one of my sisters (the other was with my mother) and the senior communication officer for the region.

In the middle of all that, I received an email from the National communication officer to tell me that I had been selected for a major extended overseas assignment. So on top of everything else, I had to call Ottawa and turn down that offer.

After that, I gave myself some time to process and ended up calling my doctor back with questions. She actually called me shortly after with a referral to a surgeon for the following Monday.

And so began my cancer journey two years ago.

After I gave myself time to process I told Boss–I was supposed to have a lesson that night and between the flu and the news, it wasn’t going to happen.

The next few days passed in a blur of the flu,  doctor appointments appointed information gathering. At that point, no one knew the extent of my cancer so there were lots of tests to be done before what turned out to be my first surgery.

From conversations I have had with others, no cancer diagnosis is the same, no one reacts the same, and rarely is the initial diagnosis the same as the final one. I was initially diagnosed with stage 0 ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS). My final diagnosis was aggressive stage 2 DCIS and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.

That began my journey, and in many ways it is still on-going, even though I will celebrate 1 year cancer-free  next month.

Dealing with the withdrawal symptoms I have in the past week, today was probably a little harder than it needed to be.

But tomorrow is a new day.

Reset

And so it begins.

My lesson tonight was good.  We started looking at some steps Boss wants to add to the open routines as well as sequences for me to start doing as exercises.  We also took some time to review the videos from the competition and look at good and bad points.  We seem to agree on the same points and Boss had a few things to add, such as use of my foot in standard, to set the stage for the next few weeks.

Bending my knees when I need to is another issue I need to work on.  My knees are feeling better after the break I have had and I hope they stay that way.  I am not allowed to run for now, so cardio is going to be elliptical for the next little while at least.

One of the things I was able to figure out this week was some new motivation for fitness and my weight.  I developed some new goal ‘rewards’ for myself and they are more enticing than those I had for myself before.  I think this will be a better plan for me and it is similar to what worked for me before but updated.

I also bought a new fitbit today, the updated version of what I had before.  I am already enjoying the updates and hope it will also be effective as the last.

One of the other things I discussed with Boss was some small changes to my dresses, although mainly about adding stoning.  He agrees with what I have suggested, and I hope the dressmaker does too.  We have to start working on the smooth dress too.

Speaking of smooth, hopefully in the next couple weeks we will start working on it again.  I am going to do some extra lessons since I have some ‘banked’ from being away.  In a way, it is like learning 4 solos and that is how I plan to approach them.

I can feel myself starting to build momentum and I am glad for it.  I have some other thoughts but I will save them for a post after my lesson tomorrow.

Until then, happy dancing!

Post Comp

This will probably be the first post of a few as I work through all the usual post comp processes.

First, I was successful in achieving my goal of getting through all my dances.  It was close though.  I was coughing so hard after my solo I considered scratching the 5-dance.  Thankfully, with a lot of water, cough drops, decongestants and ibuprofen my lungs settled down and I was able to do the full scholarship without coughing, completing my goal.

My solo was hands down the high point of the day.  I felt good and relaxed going into it and it just clicked together.  It was one of those moments where the audience disappears and I was able to just enjoy the moment and performance.  Really strong comments from almost all the judges, and many people from the audience came up to me after to say how much they enjoyed it. My shining moment from the competition.  I posted the video on the Breast Cancer Ballroom Dancer facebook page if you would like to see it.

Next to the solo, it was probably the 5-dance scholarship that went the best.  Whether it was because I felt no pressure, or I was just determined to get it done, things seemed to click together a little bit for it.  That’s not to say it wasn’t hard.  I messed up the quickstep pretty good and almost tripped Boss, but I pulled it back together and was able to finish strong.

I got all of the routines on the floor .  They weren’t without mishaps, and watching the videos they are obviously new routines that still need some of the bugs worked out.  But what was good was that we were able to sort through and figure out what spots we should look at adjusting going forward, because they just don’t quite seem to work the way they were expected to.There is lots to work on before my next competition.

My placings were not great.  I was last in all of my contested heats except one.  It’s a little strange because while I didn’t expect to do well, I didn’t expect to be last either.  It’s been more than a year since I last competed and so much has changed, so I guess I really didn’t know what to expect, especially with new routines in a fairly new level for me (open silver). I am trying not to focus on it too much, but I do have to acknowledge to myself that I am disappointed with how I placed, but mostly because I am also disappointed with how I looked while dancing.

I know that I was giving my all and trying to pull everything together but I was finding myself a little distracted and unfocused.  I am sure the illness contributed to everything but in the end I felt heavy and slow.  When I see the videos, I see that reflected.  There is just some ‘oomph’ missing that I usually see in my dancing, and my dancing lacked the polish I usually like to bring to the floor.

I am also having a hard time reconciling how my body looks now.  If I had to choose a word, I would say ‘square’.  For whatever reason, I have lost a lot of the curviness I used to have before my surgery. My waist just seems to be lacking definition, so from my ribs to my hips I am almost the same size.  I am trying not to let it bother me, but clearly it does.  I only hope that as I lose more weight, things will distribute better and my curves will come back.

One thing I can definitely say is that this competition has given me the bit of the kick in the behind I have been needing.  I have been struggling to find some really strong motivation lately to keep me focused and zoned in.  Placing as I did at this competition and seeing the videos of my dancing seems to have done that.  I have a better idea of what I would like to see and do with my dancing for now, and that is probably the best thing about any competition.

I want to focus in on silver and open silver for a while, and I want to plan to do a large competition later next year to sort of finish it out.  Not sure if that completely ‘jives’ with what Boss is thinking, but I guess I will see.  He and I are going to sit down and go over things next week before I head overseas for work.

That is really my next project.  I leave on Thursday for 10 days overseas for work.  I am going somewhere I have never been before and I am nervous and excited at the same time.  I have 2 days to get everything together, but it also means a bit of an imposed break from dance.  I am thinking at this point a bit of a break and time for reflection might be a good thing.

Stamina and conditioning are two words I know will be centre of focus over the next little while.  Not just for dance, but in general.  I feel heavy and slow in all that I do and I am getting tired of it.  My stamina is affecting my ability to really do all I want to do and I want to work past it.  I keep reaching a ledge right now where I go from ‘ok’ to ‘limp noodle’ like a flip of a switch.  Part of it is still recovering from all my treatments (2 years is what the doctors say I should expect to struggle with fatigue, etc.), but part of it is so much time spent being unable to work at the level I was.  I see lots of hard work on cardio and endurance in the future.

Well, I will have to put this cold to be now.  I have an interview with The Dancing Housewife tomorrow, so I want to be on the ball for that.

I am sure I will have more to say in the next few days 🙂

Thank you all for your support as I prepared to get back on the floor for this competition!  I don’t usually post photos to the blog, but I will make an exception this time and roll back the curtain.  This is a photo of Boss and I being ‘very serious’ after the standard scholarship.  Love my new dresses from Spirals Designs!

ever-so-serious

Bed head hair

Yep, I asked Boss how he wanted my hair for the competition and his response was that his favourite was how my hair was today.  After being sick for 3 days and not brushing it–THAT is his preference (except he wants it to not move).

So apparently to prepare for this comp I only need to roll out of bed and into make-up.  Well maybe not quite that simple but I am glad I don’t have to try to control it.  It is pretty unruly and curly right now.  I figure some texturizing cream, my ‘glued’ gel and ‘freezing’ hairspray and I should be all good to go.

I am still not feeling better.   Today the cold seems to have moved to my ears so it was making me dizzy and hard of hearing.  I did make it to my lesson today, but Boss knew I wasn’t too well so he kept things simple.

We went through all of the routines except the solo in ‘easy’ mode and slow tempos and reviewed a few of the points from my last lesson.  We just focused on specific steps in a couple of the routines that are in good shape and made some small adjustments that were needed in paso and samba.

I made it through everything although Quickstep made my head spin at the end of my lesson.  I even felt better after my lesson, which I see as a good sign.  Hopefully some decongestants tonight will clear out my ears and all will be well.

The plan right now is to do a 30 min run through of all routines on Wednesday, followed by a final lesson on Thursday.  That is flexible depending on how I am feeling.  The one thing that does concern me a little is that I will be doing a 5-dance event in Standard on Saturday night and I haven’t yet made it through all 5 dances without having to stop.  I hope to rectify that on Wednesday or Thursday.

My dressmaker sent me a ‘preview’ photo of the stoning for my standard dress and I am really amazed at how it looks!  I can’t wait to see the full dress and the latin dress as well.  They should be ready Wednesday.  Both dresses are very different from my previous dresses so I can’t wait to debut them at the competition!

Fingers are crossed that I continue feeling better and the rest of the week goes as planned!

A day of surprise

It’s amazing how sometimes something can happen and it takes some time just to catch up with it.

I got something completely unexpected when I got into work today. I got an email from my doctor that said I have been approved as medically fit by the headquarters.

This means that I am officially allowed to return to full duties, and that I will be posted from the support unit to a ‘real’ position.  It means that as far as work is concerned, my cancer journey is officially behind me.

It’s a bit surreal.  I have had to read the email a few times today just to remind myself it’s true.  It was completely unexpected, but my doctor expedited my file because I am slated to travel overseas for work in October (after the competition) and the easiest way to permit that was to get sign off as soon as possible.  I thought they were exploring other options and did not know they had asked for my file to be reviewed ASAP.  Usually it takes more than 6 months to get sign-off.

That was the start of a very busy day facilitating media interviews and working on products for my upcoming trip.  I will reveal where it is closer to the time and once tickets are bought (no turning back then), but it will be 10 days in a place I have never been–very exciting!

At dance today, we worked on the Viennese Waltz solo, and that started a bit of another surprise.  Boss started by asking me to show him what I had choreographed for the very beginning of the solo.  He liked my idea, and so it became.  We also got the ending together as well.  By the end of the lesson, we were able to run through the full routine a couple times and recorded it.  I can see I was pretty tired, and some spots that need definite work, but the routine is together!  It’s mainly polishing now.

I generally feel better today–whether it was the news that started my day (which I am still processing), or that the solo is now together and doable, or I am a little pumped from having a really productive day at work.  It was only the very end of my lesson I felt my legs turn to jelly, but I didn’t feel exhausted afterward.  My endurance in general still needs a lot of work to rebuild.

My knees also felt better today.  It seems they are happier on the days I work out my legs, and the day after, but start to flare up on the third day.  It will be something to discuss with my physiotherapist.

Hard to believe but next week I will start tapering down my workouts to allow my body to recover to be in top form for competing.  I always reduce my strength training before a competition and just focus on dance so that my muscles are not fatigued on competing day and I am able to be fresh.

To be honest, part of me still hasn’t quite realized the competition is so close.  It’s like I have been working and waiting forever to get to it, and now that it is almost here it doesn’t seem quite real.  Part of that though may be everything else that is going on.  I am sure that soon enough it will seem too close!

Pre-competition Disorder

It’s coming.

Not here quite yet, but I can feel it coming.  Pre-competition Disorder. Essentially when students freak out before a competition and panic they won’t be ready.

I am usually pretty good at managing it, but this is a bit of a ‘come-back’ comp and all of my routines are new.  And I actually have people to compete against–which has been a long time for me.

In my lesson today, we were running through my solo for the competition.  It’s almost choreographed, and we were able to get through it from mid-beginning to where the choreography stops almost near the end.  It was videotaped and it doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would.

I will admit there was a point in my lesson today when I seriously considered suggesting dropping doing the solo.  Boss was being a little frustrated with me because I wasn’t quite getting something, and suggested we ‘simplify’ it so it can be ready.  There is nothing I hate more than not being given a chance to learn something before Boss decides to ‘simplify’ it.  In the end, I got the step as he originally wanted it, so small victory for me.

After that, he gave me a choice of whether to run-through the routine or to just work on little parts.  I chose to run-through it as I knew that mostly I needed to repeat it in context to get the footwork in my feet.  I know the parts that need a little more focused work, and some of them I just need to work through on my own.

I am not really sure why, but I was struggling with two things today–first, my knees were excruciatingly sore.  I didn’t want to bend them and I was compensating for them without really realizing it.  I am not sure why they were so flared up.  Wednesday is the day I don’t have strength training, so they were able to take it easy all day.  I am actually wondering if it is the rest they don’t like.

The second thing I was struggling with was dizziness–which is definitely an issue when doing Viennese Waltz!  What was strange was that I was finding myself a lot more dizzy than I usually would be, and sometimes felt dizzy for no reason.  The dizziness was also one of the reasons I wanted to cut back on the medication–I had been finding it more and more in the last couple weeks, and I am hoping as I cutback the dizziness will go away.

I just don’t need anymore health issues right now.

I think the combination of my knees, the dizziness and feeling the pressure of putting together a complicated solo two weeks before a competition is starting to get to me a little bit.  I found myself feeling a little overwhelmed during my lesson.

I stayed for practice tonight and ran through each of my open silver routines as best I could on my own.  They weren’t too bad, but I could tell I was tired.  That said, the only one that gave me a lot of grief was foxtrot, which I was working on last.  Quickstep is still a little fragmented, but tango has really become ironed out.  I was able to focus on styling a little in cha cha, especially the beginning which is more side-by-side.

I have my final lesson this week tomorrow, and the plan is to run through the solo more, hopefully from top to bottom.  We also need to run through the Paso Doble before the competitive practice on Sunday.  Boss also mentioned he wanted to work through Viennese Waltz just on it’s own because he found in the solo I wasn’t ‘really moving’ and seemed to be struggling with the actual VW part.  I did tell him I was keeping things small on purpose for my knees, which I guess made sense to him. I hope my knees are better tomorrow.

One thing that is adding to my stress a little bit is the news that my roommate was given an offer for his own place, so he will be moving out the end of October.  It was quite a bit unexpected, for him and for me, and it means I have to scramble to find a new roommate.  While I can pay all the bills on my own and even keep myself in lessons, no roommate means almost no savings for competitions.  Therefore, if I don’t find a new roommate then the competition over Thanksgiving will be my last until I am able to find a new roommate.  It sucks, but it is what it is, and I will just have to see how things progress.  I think I have already resigned myself a bit to not being able to afford to do the next competition in January.

Today was my first day on the lower dose of the medication and there seems to be a little bit of difference already–in a positive way.  I can say for sure that my digestive system is feeling a little happier today, and there is less metallic taste in my mouth.  I am going to hold on to those signs and hope it keeps moving forward.  I am though a little concerned that the reason I feel a little bit overwhelmed is also because of the dose change.  The medication affects mood, and has to be ‘weaned’ off to avoid a ‘crash’ if it is stopped suddenly.  I am of course ‘weaning’, but I think it would be irrational of me to think that cutting the dose in half won’t have even the slightest effect on my mood.

I am dealing with it though–as best as I know how :).